About 140 refugee applications were filed between January and August of 2018 in Jalisco, according to the Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (COMAR). That figure may not seem impressive, but it’s a massive increase from last year’s four claims and distinguishes Jalisco as the eighth state with the most asylum claims.
Over the past eight years, an increasing amount of Central Americans traveling through Guadalajara en route to the United States are deciding to stay. Nowadays, with former eastern routes compromised by organized crime groups, many migrants are taking northwestern trajectories even if it requires more time.
Elsewhere in Mexico, more migrants are using legal means to settle down. On a national level, 15,544 people requested asylum in 2018, according to COMAR data. This number is 12 times larger than the 1,300 applications made in 2013.
National authorities accepted around 1,231 submitted requests in 2018, leaving more than 12,000 unresolved applications for 2019. Of these, 217 belonged to unaccompanied minors, 156 boys and 61 girls.
Optimism that Mexico can accommodate so many new people is challenged by the fact that in 2019 COMAR expects to receive its lowest federal budget in the past seven years. Despite the unprecedented amount of formal applications, not all experts agree that Mexico is properly suited to welcome a stream of newcomers.
“Mexico is not an important destination for foreigners,” Jorge Durand, a migratory studies researcher at the University of Guadalajara, told El Informador newspaper. “When foreigners arrive, it means that it’s an interesting country with development, opportunities, business and possibilities. If foreigners do not come, it means the opposite.”
Durand believes that Mexico still remains a “sending” country in terms of the millions of people seeking economic opportunity elsewhere, but thinks the Mexican government should embrace this new demand as a “receiver.”
“You have to see it as a positive element,” he said. “The arrival of immigrants indicates that there is demand for labor and business opportunities, to form companies, to study.”
The majority of the 2018 asylum cases pertained to men between the ages of 15 and 35, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela. While Mexican salaries don’t exactly fare better than other countries, what this country has to offer is a strong social and medical infrastructure.